Individual rights or communal rights

Individual rights or communal rights

A process of intentional deception is underway. Everyone is indeed pretty aware that there is no Cyprus deal in the pipeline as long as Greek Cypriots maintain their “all mine and only mine” obsession, but there is still talk about a resolution in March, April, May or at the latest by the end of the year.

The discussion nowadays is that time is running out for a Cyprus deal before the summer. Even if a deal was to be completed soon, there would not be much time to explain it to the peoples of the two constituent states of the prospective federation. Furthermore, with the looming May parliamentary elections on the Greek Cypriot side, the process might be held hostage altogether by petty local political propaganda anyhow. Thus, gradually the international army of Cyprus peace brokers started pinning their hopes on a resolution later, in September or so.

The optimistic assessment shared by the Turkish Cypriot leadership - and partly by the political power holders in Ankara - is that the two sides have achieved some concrete headway in the governance and power sharing, economy and EU affairs chapters, while the thorny property issue remains a pain in the neck. Still, according to these optimistic assessors, the ground covered so far in the property heading was so substantive that there might be a deal “within a month or so.” 

How could this “home attachment” of the current and previous property owners be resolved? How could the reinstitution of property rights and bi-zonality and bi-communality principles be respected in view of the fact that some 85 percent of the current “residential properties” of the north used to belong to Greek Cypriots? Or, if the compensation option was to be agreed upon, would donors provide the 18-25 billion euros required for a compensation scheme? If, for example, only the property rights of those Greek Cypriots who spent at least 10 years in their pre-1974 “homes” were restored, after almost 50 years, how many “original, first-degree” owners are still alive? Should not the heirs of that group inherit the rights of their parents? This is a thornier issue than anyone might assume.

Or, what if someone was given a former Greek “home” and made it his “home” over the past 40-plus years but passed away last month, leaving it to his son or daughter? What will happen? Or what if someone bought a house and settled in a few years ago?

Assuming that only a couple of thousand Greek Cypriots would want to return and settle in the north or that most Greek Cypriots would prefer a compensation scheme is all a pipe dream. Not only should bi-zonality and bi-communality be effectively fortified with a magic formula, that formula should be made a primary law of the EU so that it could not be challenged and brought down to court tomorrow.

Guaranteeing Turkish Cypriots the “majority” in their zone will be far less valuable than the paper it is written on if it could not be made a primary law of the EU, and if the dictate of Nikos Anastasiades on Mustafa Akıncı that any agreement ought to contain a clause stressing firmly that the Turkish Cypriot population should never exceed a one-quarter ratio of the population, would the same ratio be applied in emigration from Turkey? Would Anastasiades consider castrating all Turkish Cypriots? Can such an agreement be acceptable?

There is talk that after a resolution Turkey would be given “EU member status” by the new federal Cyprus. How will that be possible with Greece having the right to settle, own property and move freely around Cyprus and enjoy the tentative accord that for every Turk migrating to Cyprus, three Greeks could migrate? Is the mainland Greek population three-fold bigger than the Turkish population? Another funny arrangement would be the guarantees issue. It’s being whispered that a new form of guarantee would be introduced. In that new system the word “guarantee” would not be mentioned, Turkey, as well as Greece, would not have contingencies on Cyprus - other than the two sovereign bases, Britain would not have any military presence either - and the guarantee scheme would be turned into a mechanism of sanctions… How? Could the EU be accepted as a substitute for effective Turkish guarantee by Turkish Cypriots?

The Greek Cypriot side has been insisting that the Cyprus problem ought to be resolved within the framework of full individual rights for all Cypriots. This sound so good to the ears but when it comes to practicality, it means condemning Turkish Cypriots to a minority status forever. If they accept minority status, why was this painful struggle waged and why were so many lives sacrificed for the past 50 years?

Tomorrow or the day after tens of Greek or Greek Cypriot friends will probably write and ask me whether I could write a similar article for the Kurdish people of Turkey and defend their communal rights. Let me say right away, though every issue has its peculiarities and the Cyprus issue and the Kurdish issue should not be mixed, in essence, yes, the Kurdish people of Turkey should be first-class citizens. Autonomy, self-rule, partnership in sovereignty or a federal arrangement are issues that must be resolved through political engagement. Naturally, the right to self-determination could not be repeatedly exercised. Kurds preferred to be part of the “unitary state of Turkey” as “equal members” of the nation when the Ottoman Empire dissolved and a new republic was established on its ashes. When the colonial administration ended in Cyprus, Greeks and Turks decided to establish a partnership state with an effective federal arrangement. Thus, from the beginning the Turkish Cypriot people preferred to maintain their right to sovereignty, independence and territory of the island as one of the two constituent peoples. Any new deal must correspond to that basic requirement coupled with the 1975 and 1977 “agreed added elements” of bi-zonality and bi-communality. Turkey can neither be bi-zonal or bi-communal, as the two main components of the people of Turkey, Turks and Kurds, have long since amalgamated into an inseparable one through a centuries-long process.